|The ghost of Ziggy remains in Nassau.|
No, despite some of their poor seasons under Garth Snow, these Islanders haven't been the 1995-96 Islanders, the first team I really began watching as a child. There haven't been fire sales. The team's stars find themselves homes on Long Island. That couldn't be said in 1995-96, when the Islanders were as big of a joke as the crest the Fisherman crest they wore on their sweater.
Players came and went during this era, where a certain "guy" sat in Snow's position. There was no such thing as "the core," only players that would show promise, but make it big elsewhere. There was no such thing as "hope" because once the Islanders had a player to build around, they sent said player packing.
This morning, I received a blast from the past, which sent me all the way back to my first season as an Islanders' fan. Zigmund Palffy, once an Islanders' idol of false hope, has officially retired from the game of hockey.
Over a decade ago, Palffy was the centerpiece of the New York Islanders hockey club. He was the only player that made this team bearable during a time where the Nassau Coliseum was packed at less than 50% capacity. His Islanders' teams, themselves, never made any type of positive impact for Islanders' fans, but Palffy was the figurehead that would pull the team forward.
In June 1999, the idea of building the team around a homegrown player was crushed. Palffy was traded to Los Angeles, leaving the Islanders without a home-grown marquee player for the next ten years.
The Islanders went through players like Alexei Yashin and Michael Peca. They watched players like Jason Blake and Mark Parrish grow into NHL All-Stars. They gave all-time greats such as Bill Guerin and Doug Weight a chance to play in featured roles on the last-legs of their respective careers. Not one of these guys gave Isles' fans a solid reason to move on, and who could blame them?
Since his departure, not one Islanders' player has matched Palffy's three-consecutive 40-goal seasons, nor have they matched his three-consecutive 80-point seasons, including a 90-point campaign in 1996-97. Yes, it took the Islanders 14 seasons to find a player to hit the 80-point plateau again, so thank you, John Tavares.
And seriously, thank you, John Tavares. Without JT, it would still be impossible to let go of Zigmund Palffy's ghost. For the first time since Palffy left, the Islanders have developed their own player that has already left his own mark. For the first time since Ziggy reigned supreme on Long Island, the Islanders have their own player who could accomplish more as an Islander than Ziggy could have ever dreamed.
Maybe ironic isn't the word, but it's certainly something that Ziggy, the last true superstar on Long Island, retires from the game when the Islanders only superstar since achieved something he never did: a playoff-berth. In a sense, it's an unofficial "passing of the torch." It took a decade after Palffy to draft him, and 14 years to make his first true mark on Long Island, but John Tavares has become the first Islanders' player to truly give fans the long-term hope that Palffy once did.
After all of these years, there's a reason why Ziggy's ghost has continued to resurface in the Nassau Coliseum. As Zigmund Palffy retires, Islanders Op-Timism thanks him for the memories, and congratulates him on an unbelievable career. I'm also thankful that the Islanders can finally move on.
I'm Chris Triants, and this is my blog.
Let's go Islanders!